Ok, I have to be honest. I was a little bit nervous as we pulled up to the Estuarine Education Center (EEC) (which would be more appropriately named, "Estuarine Adventure Center”), but I was ready for a new adventure...stand up paddleboarding or SUP. The Jackson County Campus of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gautier has an incredible teaching facility that seems all but hidden to the rest of the world. Located on the Mary Walker Bayou, this state-of-the-art campus offers an Outdoor Recreation Leadership program, as well as, a wide array of adventures available to everyone including rentals of kayaks, SUPs, canoes, to a high and low ropes course that challenges the individual and builds trust, teamwork, and leadership skills.
I’d chosen to visit the EEC to discover the growing SUP culture growing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There are some really great businesses who offer rentals, like WUT SUP Paddleboards and Rentals is located on Gulfport Lake off of the Seaway Rd. in Gulfport, next to The Dock Restaurant. Wut Sup owners, Dan and Jessica Wittmann host several activities right there on the lake, such as Sunset Paddles every Saturday evening during the season. Wut Sup provides paddle rentals, a movie for the kids, popcorn, and a naturally good family-friendly event. They will also meet you at an ideal location across the Coast for SUP and kayak rentals. From birthday parties, booze cruising, and fitness challenges, there are many more opportunities for fun at Wut Sup, and to learn more, visit http://wutsuprentals.com/home/2623486. Paddles Up in Ocean Springs is another SUP rental provider. Paddles Up owner Amanda Mavar-Schmidt also meets your party where you want to paddle board. Paddles Up sponsors several events across the Coast, as well, like "Hump Day Paddle” at Gil’s Fish Camp every Wednesday evening. To learn more about Paddles UP, visit http://paddlesupms.com/.
So, this crazy, hectic Friday at the end of May, 2015, was extraordinarily insane. I was racing down Highway 90 in Biloxi. There is always so much traffic in front of casino row, and it seems like everyone is in a hurry to start their weekend. I know I was. As I mentioned, I was a little nervous, when we pulled up, but as soon as Melissa Jarosinski greeted me with her professional yet easy-going way, I immediately began to relax. "Its not fun unless someone gets wet, right?” she said. She showed me how to get on the board, showed me the correct way to paddle, and that was all I needed. It didn’t take as much balance and coordination as I thought it would. It was a little breezy that day, so it made for an extra effort, but once we were out of the channel and into the bayou, all of the craziness of the outside world melted away. It was so, incredibly peaceful. The wildlife that surrounded me as I began a new adventure was inspiring. The mullet that was jumping, the heron who was lurking, and even the bald eagle soaring all seemed to welcome me to their pristine and beautiful world. Literally minutes from the busy Highway 90 that stretches from one end of the coast to the other, the EEC gave me the opportunity to escape it all.
Prices vary on rental rates at each SUP location. At the EEC, whether kayak, canoe, or SUP, an experienced and licensed guide takes you and your party out on the Bayou. Melissa, our guide for the day, told us a little history of the Bayou, talked of the future of the center, and discussed all of the possibilities that lay ahead. This is such a hidden treasure of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but definitely worth exploration by all locals and visitors.
I’m happy to say that I understand the growing interest in stand up paddling. There are so many benefits from getting out on the water, enjoying nature, and just taking a minute to enjoy something different. Whether you intend to enter one of the many SUP races, try a little yoga on the board, or get a really great core workout, SUP is a different way to get some really great exercise. Tell your friends or enjoy it alone, either way it is a must do on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Visit www.PlaytheCoast.com or download the app to find out what events are happening across the coast. Click. Plan. Play the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
MGCCC Estuarine Education Center
2300 Highway 90, Gautier, MS 39553
1018 Government St. Ocean Springs, MS 39564
Wut Sup Paddle Boards and Rentals
13247 Seaway Rd. Gulfport, MS 39503
More information about MGCCC Estuarine Education Center and its programs:
Outdoor Recreation Leadership Center
Outdoor Recreation Leadership associate degree program
Indoor rock-climbing wall
Two classrooms, complete with multimedia
Scenic deck (may be reserved for outdoor dining or relaxation)
Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Building
Courses in natural and environmental sciences
Biological science lab
30-seat multimedia classroom
74-seat auditorium with 24 computer stations
33 acres of woodlands and wetlands
1.5 acre pond teeming with wildlife
1.5 miles of trails for hiking and cycling
Ropes course for confifidence and team building
Two academic buildings and a meeting pavilion
- Two piers with pavilions